Species Diversity High in U.S. "Urban Jungle," Event Reveals

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News
July 10, 2006

A BioBlitz happening just miles from the White House might sound alarming, but have no fear.

The Potomac Gorge BioBlitz held last month was a 30-hour safari for seldom seen and underappreciated wildlife.

The blitz revealed more than a thousand species living in the suburban and urban environments of the Potomac River Gorge.

A globally rare species of snail, a beetle new to Virginia, and a species of fly never before found east of Iowa were among the surprises revealed by the blitz.

"A BioBlitz is part contest, part festival, part educational event, and part scientific endeavor," explained U.S. National Park Service (NPS) educator Giselle Mora-Bourgeois.

NPS cosponsored the species hunt with the Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit the Nature Conservancy.

The goal of the event was to provide a quick snapshot of species diversity in and around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area (Washington, D.C., profile, maps, more).

Biodiversity Snapshot

Since the idea originated in 1996, dozens of BioBlitzes have been conducted to highlight the biodiversity in or near urban areas across the country.

The Washington, D.C., event focused on the Potomac River Gorge, a 15-mile-long (24-kilometer-long) river corridor that stretches from the suburban town of Great Falls, Virginia, to the Georgetown area of the nation's capital.

Freeways, office complexes, and residential neighborhoods surround the gorge.

More than 145 volunteer scientists took part in the Potomac blitz, with participants divided into 18 teams looking for different groups of organisms.

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